As I mentioned over here in Wicked Game, some time soon after 9/11, I made a call to the terrorism hotline number. This was due to seeing a pair of odd characters posing as electricians and wandering around the Upper East Side in and around Carl Schurtz Park near Gracie Mansion, the traditional home of the Mayor of New York City.
At that point, I had about ten years experience with contractors and subcontractors from working as a real estate consultant. This work began in environmental, primarily related to abating asbestos at the so-called Exxon Building, 1251 Avenue of the Americas, or 1251 Sixth Avenue for short. I had left PSI in 1999, which had been bought by Romney’s Bain Capital a few years before that. I was still working in the same building but for a different consulting firm that worked with many tenants in that building and owners and tenants elsewhere. Nearly all of this work was related to preparing floors for tenant move-ins regardless of who our client was. We managed the design team and contractors as our primary service, typically known as “Owner’s Representative” or “Tenant Representative” depending on who our client was.
In this case, I saw two Middle Eastern men dressed similarly. One was muscular and younger than the other who was thin and “brainy” in appearance. They both had cell phones on their belts but no tools. They both wore blue t-shirts but only one had the IBEW/Local 3 (the electricians’ union) logo on it. They seemed out of place.
The younger one noticed my noticing them and spoke louder than the other who was happily describing something in another language. The younger one simply said, “Get ready, get ready,” a few times which caused his smaller companion to quiet down.
Though the dog run at the Park has changed considerably since then, the photo below was approximately my view. This was September or early October of 2001. Wearing t-shirts did not seem out of place, so it must have been a warm day. There was no snow. The fence has changed as well.
They came from the north…
…and headed south.
Unsure what to do, I called the hotline. A few minutes later a man, accompanied by a woman and a boy, walked from the same direction. He was talking into a blue-tooth ear piece, as if to convince someone of something, “It’s near Gracie Mansion. It’s near Gracie Mansion.”
The trio walked the same direction that the men had. I never heard anything more, didn’t really expect to.
A few days later, I again took the dogs to the dog run at the Park. On the way, I saw a black NYPD SUV and an ambulance parked in front of, I think this building, 120 East End Avenue. I say “I think” because I recall it being further south but the appearance of the building matches that one, so most likely I’d just forgotten precisely which cross street.
Assuming that FBI and NYPD did find an Al Qaeda cell in that apartment building or somewhere nearby, and that the presence there was follow-up investigation, there are some interesting questions this raises.
First, I think it unlikely that this was a coincidence. This occurred after my stint at the Ford Foundation backed New Jersey Shakespeare Festival, and like everything else after that and the college trip to Germany the year prior, it becomes suspect as to its “naturally occurring” state. In other words, it seems likely that some party (CIA?) knew of the cell’s presence but for some reason did not/could not communicate that information directly to FBI/NYPD. They instead used their unwitting asset via whichever method (voice-to-skull subliminals, subliminal sound, ultrasound, acoustic psycho-correction, etc.) to ensure I was there and noticed the men. Did they make sure the men were out and about while I was there as well? Why not? How did they know there was a cell in the first place?
A few years later, there would be a similar situation except I’d be completely wrong. Was that the same people or different made that happen? Was the purpose to discredit in preparation for what was to come, or to signal to me or someone else that not all was what it seemed? The second occurrence involved a man who somewhat resembled Michael Ledeen.
I’m not quite sure. What it does indicate to me is that the US government frequently knows more than it lets on. We the civilians go on envisioning a world that is 100 years behind where it actually is technologically and buy into “mistakes” that are actually well-calculated risks designed to influence public opinion. This usually moves us in the direction of handing over money and/or power to someone who already has plenty of both. Unless you believe there’s some superior being who thinks that’s the way things ought to be, you can infer surreptitious interference in our affairs. Attempting to apply other rules and methods to the plausibly deniable is pointless…that’s why it’s plausibly deniable: it’s designed to avoid detection.
In more recent news, Giuliani’s firm moved into 1251 at some point after I left. A couple of weeks or so before I arrived, his office and some hotels near the Super Bowl apparently received envelopes with white powder in them. I am told that they tested negative for anthrax. I don’t know why they were targeted and didn’t hear about it until I got to NY. This trip had been planned for months though and kept getting delayed.
It should be noted that Giuliani did not live in Gracie Mansion (though his ex-wife may have) while he was mayor. Apparently Al Qaeda did not know that. Maybe.